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Jul 26, 2012

United 'postpone share flotation'

Manchester United are believed to have postponed plans for a £200 million initial public offering (IPO) flotation on the New York stock exchange amid volatility in world financial markets.

Although the club, owned by the Glazer family, has neither confirmed nor denied that the plan has been shelved, a postponement would represent another setback to attempts to list the shares.

Last year, proposed flotations on the Singapore and Hong Kong stock markets were abandoned in an increasingly uncertain economic environment.

This summer's US flotation was reported to have been put on the back burner in a week that saw 2% wiped off Wall Street's S&P 500 index.

United had been hopeful of beginning a series of presentations to potential share buyers this week, but further uncertainty in the eurozone is feared to have made those potential investors more cautious. However, some reports indicate that the club could still price the offering at some stage during the week beginning August 13.

The Glazers bought United for £790 million in 2005, but the deal sparked unrest among supporters concerned by its reliance on debt financing.

The Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST) said it would back the share flotation if it enabled much of United's debt, which stands at more than £420 million, to be paid off.

Fans hope that would enable the club to spend more heavily on players amid fears that neighbours Manchester City, who snatched the title from United last season, could be moving ahead of their Old Trafford rivals.

The prospectus for the IPO contained an admission that the club's present debt could hamper its ability to compete in the transfer market.

The complex IPO would bring in two classes of shares, effectively leave the Glazers in total control and require a new Manchester United company to be based in the Cayman Islands, and MUST has urged the United owners to launch a full flotation with only one class of share.

"We now call on the Glazers to come back with a full flotation of Manchester United with a single class of full voting shares,'' Duncan Drasdo, the MUST chief executive, said.

"Should they choose to do this, with no strings attached, we would support such a flotation wholeheartedly and encourage the global fan base of Manchester United to seize such an historic opportunity to secure a meaningful fan ownership stake where the priorities of the club are the same as the fans - not absentee owners.''

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